Scholarly article on topic 'Materials Development and Corrosion Issues in the Back End of Fuel Cycle'

Materials Development and Corrosion Issues in the Back End of Fuel Cycle Academic research paper on "Materials engineering"

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Energy Procedia
OECD Field of science
{"PUREX process" / "pyrochemical reprocessing" / corrosion / "double oxide coating" / "electrode development"}

Abstract of research paper on Materials engineering, author of scientific article — U. Kamachi Mudali, A. Ravishankar, S. Ningshen, Girija Suresh, Ravikumar Sole, et al.

Abstract The issues of materials development and corrosion performance of various components, coating technology and corrosion monitoring for nuclear fuel reprocessing plants is presented. Development of special stainless steels, Ti and zircaloy based alloys, double oxide coating for electrolytic dissolver, dissimilar joints, noble metal coating, thermal barrier coatings, nanostructured Ti, TiO2 and nitride coatings, amorphous metallic glass coatings, etc. for highly corrosive nitric acid environments are discussed. The results of dynamic nitric acid loop of type 304L SS and zircaloy-4 used for long term corrosion assessment of materials employed in reprocessing plants are also addressed.

Academic research paper on topic "Materials Development and Corrosion Issues in the Back End of Fuel Cycle"

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Energy Procedía 7 (2011) 468-473

Asian Nuclear Prospects 2010

Materials Development and Corrosion Issues in the Back End of Fuel Cycle

U. Kamachi Mudali*, A. Ravishankar, S. Ningshen, Girija Suresh, Ravikumar Sole and K. Thyagarajan

Corrosion Science and Technology Division, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research,

Kalpakkam 603 102, India


The issues of materials development and corrosion performance of various components, coating technology and corrosion monitoring for nuclear fuel reprocessing plants is presented. Development of special stainless steels, Ti and zircaloy based alloys, double oxide coating for electrolytic dissolver, dissimilar joints, noble metal coating, thermal barrier coatings, nanostructured Ti, TiO2 and nitride coatings, amorphous metallic glass coatings, etc. for highly corrosive nitric acid environments are discussed. The results of dynamic nitric acid loop of type 304L SS and zircaloy-4 used for long term corrosion assessment of materials employed in reprocessing plants are also addressed.

© 22011 Published b y El sevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Indra Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research

Keywords: PUREX process; pyrochemical reprocessing; corrosion; double oxide coating; electrode development

1. Introduction

The successful closing of nuclear fuel cycle holds the key to the success of the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) program for the supply of sustained nuclear energy with a high growth rate. The integrity, safe and economic operation of nuclear fuel reprocessing plant components for uninterrupted operation depends on the quality and performance of critical engineering components, vessels and piping and requires high engineering and material standards. Any failure in the operation processes would lead to the leakage of radioactivity, and slowing down the production of useful fissile material from the operation of reprocessing plants. Both the operating fluid and conditions influence the components and materials properties. The performance of various components in hostile corrosive and radioactive environments decides the availability and trouble free operation of nuclear power plants. Reprocessing, re-fabrication and management of radioactive waste are the three major areas of activities that have attracted focused efforts to achieve successes in the back-end of nuclear fuel cycle [1 - 3]. This paper briefly describes the challenges and a broad based research programme that has been in progress towards the development of corrosion resistance materials, coating technology and corrosion monitoring for handling equipments in back-end of nuclear fuel cycle and also the new materials being developed for use in future FBR reprocessing plants.

*Corresponding author. Tel: +91-44-27480121, fax: +91 44 27480301 E-m ail address: .in

1876-6102 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Indra Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2011.06.064

2. Material Selection and Performance for Aqueous Nitric Acid Based PUREX Process

2.1 Materials development for aqueous PUREX reprocessing

The reprocessing of the spent fuel by PUREX process involves series of complex chemical processes and nitric acid is the main process medium used. Austenitic stainless steel of type 304L is mainly used as structural materials for equipments handling nitric acid media in nuclear fuel reprocessing plants [1, 2]. The corrosion sensitive operations with regard to stainless steels are found in equipments for heating and containing hot or boiling concentrated nitric acid solutions or nitric solutions where highly oxidizing species such as Fe(III), Pu(VI) and possibly Cr(VI) are present at critical concentration [1, 3]. Such conditions exist in the following types of equipments: acid dissolver (U+Pu, 3-13M HNO3), acid recovery evaporator (8-13M HNO3), intercycle U+Pu evaporator (2-3M HNO3, U, Pu(VI)), final plutonium nitrate concentrator, oxalic acid mother liquor evaporator (HNO3 upto 14M), vitrification off gas treatment. Hence, when the oxidizing power of the nitric acid solution increase with increases in concentration (<8M), temperature (< 353 K) and in presence of oxidizing species (Fe4+, Cr6+, Pu6+) etc; stainless steel (SS) suffered severe intergranular corrosion (IGC) even if the SS is not sensitized [1, 3]. The advanced nitric acid grade (NAG) SS with controlled chemical composition of impurities like S, B, P etc., and with higher Si, Cr etc. have also been found to undergo IGC under such aggressive nitric acid conditions [1,3]. Studies have been carried out to explore valve metals (Ti, Zr, Hf, Nb and Ta) and its alloys (Ti-5%Ta, Ti-5%Ta- 1.8%Nb etc) as alternate to austenitic SS for use in nitric acid application [1]. Fig 1 [3] shows the corrosion rates for conventional and nitric acid grade stainless steel alloys along with various other materials as determined by boiling nitric acid (Huey) test. Significant decrease in the corrosion rates of NAG alloys can be noticed with respect to conventional AISI type 304L SS. Unlike the corrosion behavior of many metals and alloys in nitric acid environments, the corrosion resistance of Ti improves as the metallic ions increases, since the dissolved Ti4+

ions formed inhibit corrosion [1 - 3]. Further, the presence of oxidizing species (Fe3+ ,Cr6+, Ti4+, Si4+ etc) and fission products did not affect the corrosion performance of titanium [1,2]. Hence for these reasons, titanium is considered as a good candidate material for containment, evaporator reboilers and as electrode materials in high temperature process streams in radiochemical processes.

o Comrrwroal GraOo Typ« 30*L SS * Uranus-16

• Macter Crwde Type 304L SS <r Uranus-OS

4« B 144 Mi SS

TIME, hours

Fig.1. Corrosion rate obtained for various materials after boiling nitric acid (Huey) test [3]. 2.2 Development of Double Oxide Coating on Titanium for Reconditioning (DOCTOR)

Introduction of advanced corrosion resistant materials and coatings in the reprocessing plant increases their life and reduces the possibilities of failures. In the context of closed fuel cycle, any designed increase in burn-up of fuel alters the chemistry of the spent fuel and hence, the reprocessing procedure or waste management strategies. The dissolver for the reprocessing plants use boiling nitric acid and hence development of corrosion resistant materials is important. Three generations of dissolver materials have been developed so far: 304L SS, Gr.2.Ti, and Zr alloys, the corrosion resistance of which are 18, 5 and <1mpy, respectively [2, 3]. The high corrosion rates obtained with commercial grades of Ti (with high Fe content - 0.05-0.1%) especially in the weld suggested the need for a suitable surface modification procedure for improving the corrosion resistance of the materials in both welded and wrought conditions. Anodisation was adopted to enhance the corrosion resistance. The main emphasis in this method has been on dissolution of iron segregated at the surface, formation of a stable oxide film and conditioning of the surface film. This has been achieved by a process termed as 'Double Oxide

Coating on Titanium for Reconditioning' (DOCTOR) [4, 5], which consists of anodizing for 24h in nitric acid containing Ru, Cr and HF, and subsequent anodic treatment in a solution of 10% ammonium per sulphate, leading to about threefold reduction in corrosion rates of Ti in the Huey test [4]. The electrolytic dis solver vessel made of DOCTOR coated Ti and Ti-5%Ta-2%Nb including zircaloy-4 are candidate materials chosen for used in boiling nitric acid containing redox ions of fission products in a highly radioactive condition [1, 2, 4].

2.3 Electrode Development for Reprocessing Plants

Mixed oxide coated titanium anodes (MOCTA) were developed [1, 6] for application as electrodes in the electrochemical processes employed for the dissolution and the purification of the spent (U, Pu)C

Fig.2.Surface appearance of; (a) formation of TiO2 nanotubes and (b) superhydrophobic rust repelling coatings on 9Cr-1Mo steel

fuel of FBTR, in India. MOCTA belongs to the category of Dimensionally Stable Anodes (DSA) which are basically a mixture of oxides of Ru, Ti, Pt, Rh, Ir and Pd coated over the surface of Ti, Ta, W, Cr, or Zr. The MOCTA electrodes developed for current applications were Ti substrate coated with RuO2 + TiO2, with or without an overlay of PtO2. These electrodes were prepared by thermal decomposition method by which the salt solutions of Ru and Ti were applied over a pretreated Ti surface and thermally oxidised to get an adherent, conductive and electrocatalytic coating. The MOCTA samples showed typical cracked-mud morphology while the application of PtO2 layer resulted in the formation of smooth and fine-grained surface. The presently used compositions of MOCTA coating worked satisfactorily upto 215 h at an operating current density of 6.5 mA/cm2 in a simulated uranium containing dissolver solution, beyond this, the cell current decreased to negligible values indicating the electrode failure [1, 6]. Another approach to increase the life time of the coating was made to develop metallic coatings over Ti substrate. Pt and Pt-Ir coatings were prepared by 'thermochemical glazing' process on Ti substrates with intermittent RuO2 and TiO2 layers, which are called as MOCTAG electrodes, which also showed a better electrochemical performance. Life assessment of these electrodes during electrolysis in a severe corrosive environment showed that these electrodes possessed a longer life compared to conventionally platinised electrodes [1, 2].

In addition to titanium deposition over stainless steels, efforts were made to deposit nanostructured titanium and TiO2 by magnetron sputtering process. Preliminary results indicated improved corrosion resistance after coating in nitric acid medium Efforts were made to develop nanotube TiO2 coatings on titanium (Figure 2a) for enhancing the catalytic activity of MOCTA electrodes. Parameters to develop such nanotube coatings with high surface area have been optimized and the developed surface has been characterized using Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). Attempts were also made to develop superhydrophobic surfaces resistant to nitric acid environments over titanium (Figures 2 b). Also, nanoporous surface with high surface area has been prepared with bulk metallic Zr-based alloys for nanofiltration and catalytic purposes. Electrochemical and surface investigation of Zr-based metallic glass of Zr59Ti3Cu20Al10Ni8 alloy and its coating for applications in corrosive nitric acid media showed improved corrosion resistance.

3. Dynamic Nitric Acid loop and Zircaloy Based High Temperature Corrosion Testing System

The corrosion evaluation of conventional AISI type 304L SS material for the reprocessing plants is presently evaluated as per ASTM A262 practice C (HUEY test). The test is also recommended by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) for evaluating the materials intended

Fig.3.Schematic flow sheet showing the various parts of dynamic nitric acid loop [1].

for nitric acid service in reprocessing plants. It is an accelerated test involving boiling nitric acid of 65%.The major drawbacks of this test procedure are that the specimens are tested in highly concentrated medium in static condition, and it is specific to evaluate intergranular corrosion only and does not simulate the plant conditions. This limitations of the current approach led to the design of a Dynamic Nitric Acid Loop (NAL) of 400 L capacity at IGCAR, Kalpakkam, made of AISI type 304L SS, with flowing 6M HNO3 (inactive conditions) at different temperatures for evaluating the corrosion performance of materials over long operating periods. The typical flow sheet of the dynamic NAL used is shown in Figure 3. The corrosion behaviour of AISI type 304L SS used in the Demonstration Fuel Reprocessing Plant (DFRP) and the Nitric Acid Grade (NAG) type 304L SS are evaluated at different temperatures (40°C, 60°C, 80°C, 107°C (boiling) and vapour phase). Experiments were carried out for 100, 250, 500 and six 1000 h, and the results indicated that the DFRP alloy exhibited a corrosion rate of 13.8 mpy after 8000 h in boiling condition compared to 7.5 mpy of NAG alloy. The study is being continued for upto 10000 h total duration in order to generate the corrosion rate data. The availability of such reliable and useful data will be helpful in predicting the life of the components used in the reprocessing plants.

Zircaloy-4 based high temperature corrosion testing system of 10 litres capacity has been made with provisions for testing under liquid, vapour and condensate conditions [7]. The systemhas been operated for 3000 h with 11.5M nitric acid. Studies conducted so far indicated corrosion rate values below 1 mpy for zircaloy-4 samples. Based on the results obtained a prototype dissolver vessel similar to the design of the operating dissolver at CORAL plant was manufactured for long term corrosion evaluation under simulated dissolver conditions. Dissimilar joining of zircaloy-4 with type 304L SS was achieved using friction joining process and was characterized for integrity and corrosion resistance [7, 8]. The better corrosion behaviour of friction welded zircolloy-4 to type 304L SS joints was observed when there are no intermetallic compounds at the interface [7, 8].

4. Materials and Coating Technology for Pyrochemical Reprocessing plants

For the pyrochemical reprocessing of spent metallic fuels of future fast breeder reactors, molten chloride salts will be used for the electrorefining process. The molten salt preparation for electrorefining involves impure salts and high temperature producing highly corrosive conditions. In order to overcome the corrosion of metallic materials in molten chloride environment, efforts were made to select materials and coating technology useful for various unit operations like salt preparation, electrorefining and cathodic processing of pyrochemical reprocessing. The various materials like 410 SS, 430 SS, 316L SS, Inconel 600, 625 etc. are tested for salt preparation, electrorefining, cathode processing, waste processing etc. as containers and associated accessories, and C-based high density graphite, pyrographite etc. as crucible and electrode materials. Casting of type 316L SS main vessels,

electroforming of Ni and Ni-W coated crucibles, ceramic coatings of yttria stabilized zirconia, and PVD based nanostructured nitride coatings are some of the developments carried out in association with industry, academic and R&D institutions. Molten salt test assembly, double modular glove box, thermal cycling system, high temperature electrochemical system etc. have been established for testing purpose. The plasma sprayed yttria stabilized zirconia coating on type 316L SS exhibited better corrosion resistance (Figure 4 a & b), and laser remelting was established to eliminate micro structural inhomogeneities like pores and voids present in the coating [9]. Carbon-based coatings are also being developed for various applications. Characterization of nitride coated crucibles carried out before and after uranium melting by induction heating to simulate cathode processor crucible conditions revealed that TiN and Ti-Si-N coating appears to offer better stability, ease of ingot release and coating adhesion (Figure 4 c) [10].

Fig.4.SEM micrographs of PSZ coated type 316L SS in (a) as-coated; (b) laser treated samples (75 W) and (c) surface morphology of uncoated and TiN deposited on HD graphite crucible after uranium melting experiment [10].

5. Corrosion Monitoring Probes and Methodologies

Corrosion monitoring involves systematic measurement of the corrosion or degradation of any components of equipment, with the objective of understanding ofthe corrosion process and/or obtaining information for use in controlling corrosion and its consequences. The advantages of online corrosion monitoring and inspection allows correlation with plant operating variables enabling corrosion mitigation practices, resulting in improved management of corrosion. Towards this, electrochemical noise measurements to study passivation, uniform, and localised corrosion, respectively was carried out. Electrochemical noise technique has been established with various parameters of assessment for corrosion including localized corrosion in stainless steels in HNO3 and other media. Attempts were made in our laboratory to generate ECN base line signals representing various types of corrosion processes. Towards this study was carried out by electrochemical noise measurements in 0.1% NaOH, 5% H2SO4, and 0.1M FeCl3 to study passivation, uniform, and localised corrosion, respectively [11]. The technique has also been established after systematic R&D on the development of ECN probe, testing methodology and analysis.

6. Summary

The need for development of corrosion resistant materials, coating technology and corrosion monitoring to enhance the success of the closed fuel cycle and reduce the failure probability is presented in this paper. Research on special materials such as NAG SS, Ti and its alloys, and zircaloy-4 and coatings such as MOCTA, DOCTOR and nanostructured Ti, TiO2, nitride etc. coatings for nitric acid service is discussed. Design and fabrication of dynamic nitric acid loops and high temperature zircolloy-4 test system, dissimilar joints, and corrosion monitoring probes are highlighted for application in reprocessing plants. Further, materials and coating technology for components to be employed for pyrochemical reprocessing has also been addressed.


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